Medical Cannabis Timeline

A list of important dates relating to medical cannabis in Australia.

Oct 1999

NSW Premier Bob Carr announced the Government will investigate the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The Premier explained a working party would first examine the feasibility of making cannabis available for therapeutic purposes.


19 Oct 1999

Two bills introduced in WA to amend poisons act.

In 1999, two Private Members Bills were introduced by the Hon. Dr Christine Sharp, both titled the Poisons Amendment (Cannabis for Medical and Commercial Uses) Bill 1999 (Bill No. 20 & Bill No. 68). Both bills were defeated.

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1 Aug 2000

The working party report on the Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes was submitted to the NSW Government.

The working party s key findings:

  • Some cannabinoid substances may have value in the treatment of a limited range of medical conditions such as HIV-related wasting, nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer, muscle spasm in some neurological disorders, and pain that is unrelieved by conventional analgesics.
  • Research is required to better assess therapeutic value.
  • Crude cannabis cannot be, and is unlikely ever to be prescribed in Australia. There are commercial and regulatory obstacles to the medical prescription of synthetic cannabinoid substances in Australia.

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20 May 2003

Carr Government announced intention for four-year medical marijuana trial.

The main options being considered by the Carr Government for the design of the scheme:

  • Decriminalising the growing of cannabis plants or the possession of personal use quantities by eligible patients.
  • Government regulating the supply and providing it to patients. The Government would buy the cannabis from an overseas jurisdiction such as Canada, or grow it under very carefully supervised conditions in NSW.
  • Obtaining Commonwealth Government approval to import cannabis spray being developed in the United Kingdom, if and when it becomes available.

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11 Feb 2004

Drugs Bill introduced in the ACT to allow medical users to grow cannabis.

In 2004, the Drugs of Dependence Amendment Bill 2004 was introduced in the ACT with the backing of the Greens and Democrats. The Bill, which was defeated, would have allowed eligible medical users or nominated caregivers to grow cannabis. A key argument against the Bill was that the proposed system did not establish a supply source for the growing of cannabis. Concern was also expressed about the costs involved in regulating such a scheme.

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1 Apr 2004

Carr Government trial not pursued.

The Carr Government announced, despite having examined the various options, the preferred delivery method a metered dose inhaler or spray was years away from being available and the NSW (and federal) government opposed any means that allowed growing in backyards, i.e. decriminalisation of cannabis cultivation or purchase on the black market .

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23 Jul 2008

The Controlled Substances (Palliative Use of Cannabis) Amendment Bill 2008 was introduced in the South Australian Legislative Council.

The bill was defeated.


1 Nov 2012

Legislative Council enquiry into medical cannabis.

In November 2012, the NSW Legislative Council s General Purpose Standing Committee No 4 received a referral to inquire into the use of cannabis for medical purposes, in particular:

  • The efficacy and safety of cannabis for medical purposes.
  • If and how cannabis should be supplied for medical use.
  • Legal implications and issues concerning the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

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1 May 2013

NSW Legislative council committee report submitted.

See above for details of requirements.


1 Nov 2013

NSW Government responded to Legislative Council Committee report.

According to the Chair s Foreword to the committee report, The use of cannabis for medical purposes :

The Committee has found that in general terms medical cannabis has potential as an effective treatment for some medical conditions with appropriate safeguards in place.

Five recommendations were given (these can be viewed at this link$File/Medical+cannabis,+Issues+Backgrounder+June+2014.pdf)

Responding on behalf of the Government, the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, said the Government supported Recommendation 1, but did not support the remaining recommendations. Noted in the Minister s response, was the NSW Pain Management Plan 2012-2016, which is to more broadly address the issue of pain relief . The Minister also noted the limited evidence on the clinical efficiency of cannabis for medical purposes . In respect to recommendations 2 to 5, the Minister stated (in part):

The NSW Government acknowledges the use and supply of cannabis for medical purposes is a complex issue. However, the Government does not support the medical use of crude cannabis products that fall outside the existing regulatory and legal frameworks. The Government believes crude cannabis products are unlikely to be approved as medicines by the TGA while their quality and safety are uncontrolled.

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August 2014

Greens announced draft bill and discussion paper in ACT.

The Greens , Shane Rattenbury, introduced a paper focused on legalising cannabis use for terminally ill patients or those with serious illnesses. The document included proposals for how these patients could apply and seek approval for medical cannabis use, or potentially grow a limited amount for personal use.

NSW Premier, Mike Baird proposed clinical trial for medical cannabis for those suffering debilitating or terminal illnesses.

Victorian Labor leader, Daniel Andrews pledged to legalise medicinal cannabis as an election campaign promise.


16 September 2014

NSW Premier Mike Baird announced medical cannabis clinical trial for those suffering debilitating or terminal illnesses.

Premier Mike Baird formed a working group to initiate clinical trials, due to report back by the end of 2014. Mr Baird said the group would consider the results of the trial, as well as expert advice in finding the safest ways of making medical cannabis available to patients in need.

The Premier also confirmed new Police guidelines that will enable Police officers to exercise their discretion not to charge terminally ill adults who use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms, or their carers.

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November 2014

Cross-party senators introduced bill to federal parliament for new regulatory body.

A cross-party group of senators introduced a bill to federal parliament proposing a new and independent regulatory body (outside of the TGA) which would be responsible for licencing cannabis growing, manufacturing and distribution in Australia. The bill proposed clinical evidence could be used to determine how the drug would be prescribed. General consensus was that further thought and debate is needed.


21 Dec 2014

NSW Government announced trials for epileptic children, terminally ill adults and cancer patients.

Further to the September announcement, the NSW Government announced it would also fund trials of the drug's use on terminally ill adults and chemotherapy patients who suffer nausea and vomiting as a result of their treatment.

Premier Mike Baird said up to $9 million would be spent on at least three trials of cannabis-derived medicines to examine the benefits for patients suffering a range of debilitating illnesses.

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February 2015

Prominent medical cannabis advocate, Dan Haslam, passed away.

Fighting an initial diagnosis of terminal bowel cancer, Dan Haslam and his family became Australia s most prominent medicinal cannabis legalisation advocates. Mr Haslam was a key player in influencing State Premier, Mike Baird, to consider the uses of medical cannabis and ultimately to introduce trials of the drug for medical purposes. Dan Haslam passed away in February, five years after being diagnosed with cancer.

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April 2015

Eastern Australian states united for cannabis trials.

In April, the Queensland and Victorian Governments announced they would unite with the NSW Government proposed cannabis trials, in an effort to enable some of their residents to also be included in the trials.


May 2015

Auscann announced agreement with Norfolk Island for commercial cannabis farm.

Australian company, AusCann, signed a landmark agreement with the Norfolk Island Government which permits the company to securely grow cannabis for commercial medical purposes. The company reported it aims to plant the first crops in November 2015, for harvest in 2016, with plants then being sent to Canada for medicinal use. The island had approval for growth of cannabis overturned in mid-2014 by the island s administrator, and the same administrator has the power to veto this agreement.


June 2015

Couple donated more than $30 million to research.

In June, following the NSW Government s pledge of a further $12 million to establish a Centre for Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation, Australian couple, Barry and Joy Lambert, donated more than $30 million to the University of Sydney for the establishment of the Lambert Initiative, which will be dedicated to research into the effectiveness of cannabis in treating specific illnesses. The couple was inspired by their granddaughter who suffers from epilepsy.

In the USA, regulations at a federal level were reconsidered in order to allow for further research into medical cannabis. A US District court found there is currently not enough evidence to support a move to reclassify cannabis from Schedule 1..


July 2015

NSW Premier Mike Baird, announced first cannabis trial.

Following earlier commitments to introduce cannabis trials in NSW, Mike Baird announced the first trial for patients with terminal illnesses will be led by The University of NSW and will take place in Newcastle s Calvary Mater Hospital in 2016 using vaporised marijuana leaves and a cannabis pharmaceutical product.

A committee of Coalition, Labor and cross-bench senators also announced they would endorse a bill introduced in the federal senate, with aims to establish a medical cannabis regulatory body in lieu of the TGA.

For information on the NSW clinical trials of cannabis products visit the NSW Health website here.


February 2016

The Hon. Sussan Ley tabled new medical cannabis cultivation laws

In February 2016, Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced the amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 had passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate. The amendments allow a system of issuing licenses and permits for the regulated growing of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes in Australia. Licenses will be issued by the Commonwealth Government and overseen by an independent advisory committee. This change in legislation does not make medical cannabis use legal (that is determined at a state level) but do provide for supply, a problem that had previously challenged legalisation efforts.

For more information on the Australian medical cannabis legislation visit the Department of Health s website here.


April 2016

Victoria passes Access to Medical Cannabis Bill 2015

A new act was passed in Victorian parliament to 'enable patients in exceptional circumstances to access legal medicinal cannabis products'. The Bill creates a legal framework for the manufacture, supply and access to regulated medicinal cannabis products in the Victoria.This access won t be available until 2017 and will only be for children with severe epilepsy. An Office of Medicinal Cannabis will also be set up to oversee facilitation of the law.

You can read more about the Victorian medical cannabis changes here.


July 2016

NSW Government secures a licence to grow cannabis for medical use in Australia

In July 2016, the New South Wales Government secured a licence from the Federal Government to grow cannabis for medical use in Australia. This was the first licence approved by the Federal Government since legislation changed earlier in the year.


August 2016

Medical practitioners can apply to TGA to prescribe cannabis-related-products

In August 2016, in line with a change to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Designated Non-ARTG Products) Regulation 2016, a change in NSW allowed medical practitioners in the state to apply to the NSW Government and the TGA for permission to prescribe cannabis-based products that are not on the Register of Therapeutic Goods, to patients. This last amendment did cause some confusion as the process for approval was quite complex, and supply, especially of plant-based cannabis, was not possible at the time.